Friday, March 27, 2015

NMF: Clam Spaghetti

Long before Fella and families, we used to have a standing dinner night at our friends' place. We would all bring a course and the hosts (usually the same couple) would handle the main course. The tradition actually started sometime after I went away to law school, so I didn't get to attend until I was home for a break at some point.

That first dinner I was on for dessert. My mom is an amateur baker (sometimes I fondly refer to her as Betty Crocker) and while it's not necessarily my forte, I know my way around a pan of brownies. A la mode, natch. Smothered in caramel sauce. Perfection.

We were kept if civilized for the first round that night, but the wine was going down easy (were shots, too?!) and by the time we went back for seconds, we had zero penchant for pleasantries, devouring what was left of it all straight out of the baking dish.

I haven't hosted a dinner party in awhile. I should rectify that.

It was a rarity that we could have fish or seafood at these dinners, but when we could my friend would throw this together and mangia! I had to watch him make it once or twice before I felt comfortable recreating it on my own. And now, thank goodness, it's memorialized here for posterity.

I chopped up the clams for the kids when I served it. Miss Thang held up a piece and asked "Dis for? Meat?" The Mayor, surprisingly, had no words. He must have been too busy slurping the spaghetti noodles I'll take that as a ringing endorsement.

Clam Spaghetti

3 T butter or ghee
1 T extra virgin olive oil
8 green onions, sliced (measured out to a heaping ½ cup)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2-6.5oz cans clams, drained (reserving 1 cup of liquid)
Spaghetti or noodle substitute of choice

Heat butter and oil in skillet over medium heat; add green onions and sauté until slightly opaque. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add reserved liquid from the clams and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let reduce while the noodles cook. Add clams and heat through for the last 5 minutes. Toss with noodles and serve.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Gambler

I walk the line between wearing my heart on my sleeve and keeping things close to the vest. I’m sure I’m not alone on that line. One of the things that I’ve had on my heart lately is babies. And I’ve been keeping very much to myself about it.

I have always wanted a bigger family, at least more than 2 kids. My brother and I are 4+ years apart and were never very close. Sure, we had our childhoods together, but at some point it felt like we were two only children whose paths sometimes crossed, usually at our shared bathroom in the morning. And growing up Catholic, I saw enough bigger families than mine and the grass over there looked a little greener to me.

So I had it all planned out: meet Mr. Right (no later than college, of course), get married young, have lots of babies, live happily ever after.

God had a good laugh at my plan!

So when Fella and I started getting serious and making our plans for the future (God wasn’t laughing as much this time,) we settled on more than one (Fella is an only child and he didn’t want any of that for his kids), but no more than three.

It took awhile after the Mayor was born to get back on the more babies bandwagon. There were times that I would have been totally OK if he had been the Only. Even if the Mayor himself was telling me that he wanted me to have 15 (or was it 20?) more babies (that kid LOVES him some babies!) But Fella being the only of an only child, he didn’t want the Mayor bearing that burden.

So along comes wonder of wonders: Miss Thang. And everyone thinks it’s perfect: two—that is, one of each. So you’re done, of course…right?

When I was pregnant with the Mayor, I dreamed about having two boys. Maybe that was just another funny thing my brain was doing while the rest of me was sleeping. Regardless, pretty soon after Miss Thang, I still felt like there was still another person to add to our family.

However, I’ve been crunching some numbers. OK, maybe not exactly numbers, but time. There’s too much going on in the near future that I would rather be not pregnant for. And besides that, there’s the whole being host to another human being for 9 months (although I do love being pregnant. Mostly). Then the next year/+ on this side of the womb before they can eat real food and walk on their own. Hell, MT just hit two and she’s like the toddler version of a Stage 5 Clinger.

You know, autonomy is a really, really nice thing.

I didn’t think I’d be thinking about this much before MT turned two. But certain events accelerated the process a little bit and here I am, elbow deep in wondering if I still have it in me to have another baby. Not only have another baby, but to have three kids! I mean, that’s just crazytown! There is just no way. And as soon as I think I’ve decided that I’m done--enter crisis mode. 

So we know about the quarter-life- and the trusty ol’ mid-life crises. But this is something different. I focused so much energy in my life on getting to the part where I would have kids, the prospect of not continuing to have more kids’s an existential crisis all of its own.

Let’s call it: the Post-Reproductive Crisis.

I mean, what is my purpose in life if not making more tiny humans? Yeah, yeah, I’ve still got those two other little people I’ve already breathed life into to tend to. But their childhood is finite. As is the family planning stage of life, I keenly realize. But to still be in my child-bearing years, looking my lady parts dead in the ovaries, and giving them the finger? I just. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???

So that’s where I’m at right now: between the proverbial know-when-to-hold-‘em and know-when-to-fold-‘em.

Meanwhile (in heaven)…God holds the cards and laughs heartily.

Friday, March 20, 2015

There's No Need to Fear!

I love a good underdog. And although I like most sports, I'm not really into the March Madness thing, but it's kinda ground zero for underdog stories, no? Were any of the "bracket breakers" from this round among your picks?

I guess I've often considered myself a bit of an underdog. Whether it was academics, athletics, or the arts, no one ever considered me to be anything but middle of the pack. While it might not have been by leaps and bounds, I always seemed to exceed expectations if even just a little. Admittedly, it was kinda gratifying.

So, this week I had hoped to exceed my expectations and present you with an amazing Paleo fish taco recipe. What I ended up with was definitely more middle-of-the-pack. But maybe I have set my expectations too high; sometimes that happens trying to replicate foods (I never met an "oven fried" anything that could touch its deep fried predecessor).

Here it is anyway, because we totally ate it and didn't hate it (even the Mayor). It just wasn't "the same," KWIM?

Paleo Fish Tacos (based on Ancestral Chef's recipe found here)

1 lb cod, cut into ½ inch by 3-4 inch strips
1/3 cup coconut flour
1tsp taco seasoning
Salt & pepper

1 egg, beaten
Coconut oil* for frying

Add enough oil to a pan so that it is at least 1/2 inch up the sides and heat over high heat.

Mix together the coconut flour and seasonings in a shallow dish (I use a pie pan), the egg in a second shallow dish. Coat the fish in the egg, then dredge in the flour mixture. 

Carefully place in the fish in the hot oil and fry until golden brown (about 5 minutes). If the oil does not cover the fish, flip the pieces over to brown on the other side. Remove fish from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack lined with a paper towel.

Serve on lettuce or tortilla substitute of choice. Garnish with a lime wedge and your favorite toppings.

*I didn't have enough coconut oil to use when I made this, so I actually used ghee/clarified butter, so maybe that's how we got robbed this time around.

No need to fear! Underdog is here!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Two AND a Centennial?

We celebrated Miss Thang (some more) with family and friends this weekend. I try to make things low maintenance (by Pinterest standards, anyway.) Inevitably, some little detail seems to get overlooked. Not that anyone but me really knows better.

I admitted to my fellow moms that the older my kids get, the less I worry about so many of the details. And that the details were definitely more elaborate when I was still working outside of the home. Working Mommy’s Guilt? Perhaps. A testament to having more time to think, plan, and shop online while being a desk jockey? Absolutely.

Last week also marked my Gramma’s 98th birthday. She and Miss Thang were born on the same day 96 years apart! Upon hearing their ages, a friend of my dad’s remarked that they have 100 years between them. Crazy!

Friday, March 13, 2015

NMF: Salmon Cakes with Basil

We’re in full-blown party prep mode here. This is probably the last year that we can get away with a party that’s more about us than it is about Miss Thang. I mean, it’s totally about her, but there’s no character décor involved whatsoever. The Mayor has had a party theme every single year and in retrospect I wish I hadn’t done it that way so soon.

Most of my shopping is done for the party (surprisingly!) and I don’t think I’m going to have to go to Costco for anything, which is...odd. But I guess it’s because we are not, to the Mayor’s dismay, serving pizza at Miss Thang’s brunch party.

Speaking of, there aren’t many things in the prepared foods section at Costco that I will venture buying. Rotisserie chicken: yes. Spinach salad: maybe. Roll-up sandwiches: occasionally. But several years ago my MIL turned me on to the salmon with garlic basil butter. It’s heavenly. Except they use farmed Atlantic Salmon, which isn’t the best for you, so this, too, has been relegated to the “occasional” category.

So as I was looking around for Paleo fish cakes recipes, I came across Nom Nom Paleo’s Spicy Tuna Cakes. Regardless of the fact that I didn’t have the proper ingredients on hand to make this as-is, it has already been an uphill battle to get my kids the Mayor to eat seafood and fish with us, so I didn’t need to add in the spicy-factor to his arsenal.

So I wandered around my kitchen a bit, hoping for inspiration to strike. And holy mackerel did it ever! 

These are spectacular. The Mayor even gave a glowing endorsement (no morsel left behind!) And the cooking in a muffin pan, GENIUS!

Garlic Basil Salmon Cakes

3 x 6 oz cans salmon
1 cup mashed sweet potato
2 large eggs
3 T melted ghee/clarified butter, divided
¼ cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced*
2 T basil, chopped*
Zest of small lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350° and butter a 12-cup muffin pan with 1T of ghee.

Combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl, adding the eggs last (you can taste for seasoning this way).

Scoop a quarter cup into each muffin tin and gently press into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve with a green salad and boom: dinner. Makes 12 cakes.  

*Do you know about those garlic and herb cubes in the freezer section at grocery stores? They are a godsend and worked flawlessly in this recipe. Get them. Use them. Love them. I regularly use the garlic, basil, and cilantro. I think I have ginger in my freezer, too, but have yet to try it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

On the Eve of a Second Birthday

You’re speaking more and more clearly these days. I keep thinking how much I will miss hearing you work your way through words. Like how you still say "ssshicken” instead of kitchen (and chicken, for that matter), or “ogurt” when you want yogurt, among others that I fear I’m already forgetting.

I feel a sense of guilt both when I correct you and when I don’t.

And I can’t quite tell the difference when you’re asking to go potty or go party. The past few days it’s definitely been the latter, though you refuse to be pigeonholed as a party girl. Already making good choices!

"Oh gosssh," you say and shake your head from side to side.

Just two days shy of your birthday, you really pulled out the big guns with the first “love you, Mama!” Here, have ALL the presents. Don’t think for a minute I didn’t notice you working on your dad with a “love you” at bedtime tonight.

That hair!

Those eyes!

She’s so smart!

Not a day goes by that we don’t hear these things lauded about you. Based on this alone I could say you’re a triple threat, lest I be forgetting that you are already quite a songstress (that little ditty you made up about your shoes today? Grammy worthy!) And whether it’s Toddler Tunes or Party Favorites that we’re listening to, you always keep the beat (perhaps a Tony in your future?)

ETA: We've definitely hit this milestone right here:

I’ve lost track, but last I checked you were spontaneously counting to 15+ the other day. Funny, no one remembers teaching you so many numbers! Colors, on the other hand…well, we’ll work on those, along with the last 2/3 of the alphabet. Don’t worry girl, you got this.

I’m guessing you picked most of these things up from the Mayor. It helps in the learning department to have a big brother. I can still remember spontaneously learning the state capitals when I still shared a room with your uncle. And play the piano. I’m sure he thought I was a snotty little show-off when I’d sit and play by ear what he’d just been toiling over in an hour of practice.

Don’t let that deter you, though.

Sassy Pants. Lady Lu. Missy Mae.

My girl…TWO!

Monday, March 9, 2015

As Real As It May Seem

I had the funniest dream last night. 

A boy I'd known since about the Sixth Grade was in it. Except we were in high school. We earnestly expressed our mutual "like" for each other. The following day we would meet an alumni-sponsored event for Chico State. We both knew we weren't remotely interested in going to college there, but we would go anyway, if for no other reason now than to have a sanctioned event at which to see each other (as if our puppy love were somehow forbidden? Possibly. You got me.)

When I arrived the next day, the boy was already there, politely sitting on the couch, waiting for things to get underway. Instead of nervously avoiding the boy out of insecurity (which would have been a classic me move IRL) I sat down next to him. He sweetly held my hand without reservation.

More people started to arrive, including one of my besties from law school, who sat in the empty spot on the couch next to me. Apparently California had quite the effect on her: the blushing brunette southern belle was a radiant golden blonde in my dream. We joked about it, but actually, it looked pretty fantastic on her (in case you were considering it any time soon).

Of course she was the only person to notice the hand-holding. She gave me a knowing look, but saved her goodnatured teasing for another time and place.

Though a handsome and nice kid, I don't recall ever having an actual crush on the boy (which is surprising because I am was pretty boy crazy). He came across as shy, but he also had this quiet assurance about him. As if he knew what his future had in store for him and he was merely biding his time in that forsaken place we call high school.

This dream highlighted things I wish most for my kids: may they always have treasured friends (the gold and silver kind), the quiet confidence to pursue their heart's desire, and faith in what their future holds.

Friday, March 6, 2015

NMF: Thai Pumpkin Curry with Prawns

I’m not exactly what you’d call an exotic eater. I grew up on the Standard American Diet with some strong Midwestern and Scandinavian influences. (I won’t get into the “I’ve-been-on-a-diet-longer-than-I-can-remember” influences, which are fodder for innumerable posts more). So a Lawry’s taco seasoning pouch and chop suey were about as exotic as it got for me growing up.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20's that I had sushi for the first time. An acquaintance bet that I would like it or he would buy me dinner. I didn’t hate it, but…he still paid for dinner. I wonder if he would cry foul if he knew how much sushi I have eaten since.

I mean, I've had Kansas sushi and lived to tell!

And it was in Kansas (maybe actually Missouri, come to think) that I first had Thai food. A friend had an extra ticket to a Bob Dylan concert in Kansas City and I figured it was pretty much a bucket list kind of show to see, so I went. We met up with a friend of his at a Thai restaurant. They assured me, the should-have-been-laid-back California girl, that I was going to like it. I don’t remember what I had to eat (only that it was not Pad Thai) but I’ve since come to enjoy the cuisine, especially pumpkin curry. I often make this with chicken, but my latest obsession is prawns.

I adapted my recipe from a super simple one I found on Taste of Home. While I’m guessing purists might scoff, it does in a pinch. Made even easier using prepared stir fry vegetables from the produce section. Frozen will work, too, but they have a tendency to get overcooked quickly, so you will have to adjust a bit.

Thai Pumpkin Curry with Prawns

1lb prawns (large or 31/35)
Stir fry vegetables
4 tsp yellow curry powder
¼ tsp pepper
2 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ can coconut milk
¼ cup pumpkin or apple butter
Prepared rice (or substitute)

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute vegetables to desired doneness and add prawns, cooking until pink and slightly opaque. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the pumpkin, pumpkin/apple butter, curry powder, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Serves 4

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thankful Thursday

When my family moved to California, I was nine. My parents didn’t worry about my transition to a new school, new friends, and new life. After all, I was textbook Social Butterfly. But for whatever reason, I could not navigate this new social terrain, where we no longer had a “village” and my parents were too busy, too overwhelmed, too timid, too…everything to make an effort to build one.

I was involved and made friends, but they changed year-to-year depending on who was in my class or on my soccer or softball teams. I floated, never settling into any one clique. Come middle school, there were even more people and cliques to explore, but never any that were quite the right fit.

By high school, I was still on my quest to find where I fit in. It wasn’t until Junior year that things started to come together. I made a best friend and we were inseparable...until she found herself a boyfriend. In the interim, I had forged relationships with some other ladies and by Senior year we suddenly all “cliqued.” We shared inside jokes and spent Friday and Saturday nights graduating from wine coolers to six- and, all too soon, twelve-packs of cheap light beer. Eventually, our activities crossed the line from socially acceptable to downright illicit, shocking even our own sensibilities at times. But of this, there was no doubt: we were birds of the same feather.

You just wouldn't understand.

That is, until we graduated. After I spent a week away for my brother’s college graduation, I returned home expecting to pick up where we had left off just before Grad Night. To my dismay, my friends didn’t feel the same. While I was gone, they had decided that they would be better off without me. I no longer had a place with them.

I got dumped.

Fortunately, my summer was saved by some gracious souls whom I had sang, danced, and/or worked with, and was welcomed to run along with their pack as though I had been one of their kind all along. Unfortunately, there was still college.

My exes and I were all going away to the same place. They arrived ahead of me to attend community college, while I followed a month later to attend the university. And better yet, we were to be neighbors: my off-campus dorms were next door to their apartment complex, which doubled as a shortcut home from campus. It didn’t take very long to run into them walking to and from the first parties of the school year.

There were empty apologies given and received, but despite our proximity to one another, it was pretty clear that we were in different worlds already. Besides, I was still nursing my wounds and utterly incapable of being myself around them any longer (I was, after all, the reason they broke up with me).

Now deeply entrenched in those things that were once naive experimentation, my exes became something of a cliché to me and we mostly went our separate ways, only crossing paths when I needed to prove my moral superiority to myself. I eventually lost touch with all of them but one.

At times I am reminded that there is a bigger plan for me. In a given moment, I’m not likely to understand why I was dumped or rejected or turned down for some opportunity, but in time I am able to see the forest for the trees.

So today I am thankful for blessings in disguise.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Focusyn or Forget It?

Do you ever have so many ideas in your head that you can’t focus? And then you start to worry about getting them all out before you lose them all? Then even if you do get a thought down on paper before it’s in the ether, there is still the matter of finding the [choose your own adventure: time, energy, enthusiasm, inspiration, etc.] to follow through?

So I’ve started carrying around a notebook with me, since I seem to be plagued by great ideas at just the right time—while I’m making dinner, or at the grocery store; sometimes in the middle of a diaper change. So far there are a lot of quasi-coherent notes jotted down, but at other times words flood out of me. I’m not quite sure what Fella thinks of this new accessory yet, but I’m sure to him it's just one more of these devices I’m tethered to.

Fella doesn’t read this. He feels that it is private, although he very well knows it’s very much public, and if I want him to read something, I will ask him to. Along with not wanting to intrude on my publically private affairs, I’m pretty sure that unless we can cash in on this little sideline, he’s 100% Honey Badger about it. So I absolutely drew some parallels to Margaux Daughtry when I read her post 6 Reasons Why He Doesn't Care About Your Blog.

So maybe I won't be able to choose my own adventure for each indecipherable chicken scratch inside my folio, but at least it’s a start in the right direction. And one less excuse for not writing.

How do you manage the editorial schedule in your mind?